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November 5, 2020 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part IV

Norvell Family, c. 1897. Courtesy Carole Jensen.

Need to catch up? Click here: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part I


“Norvell House” owner Thomas Baber was a carpenter and it is believed that he worked on the house built by John L. Harris at Snowden, located at the Horseshoe Bend in Buckingham County, Virginia. On the 1850 census, Baber was enumerated with Harris, living at the plantation. Both men were bachelors, possibly residing in the soon-to-be or recently finished house.

According to Slate River Rambling follower Jeremy Winfrey, in 1867, Thomas Baber (born about 1811) married Judith Elizabeth Thomas (born about 1824), who was the widow of William Henry Baber. Thomas Baber died in Buckingham County on April 26, 1888. The death record gives his age as 84, his wife’s name as Judy, and his occupation as merchant.

Winfrey also shared that there is an old lock in the Norvell house with a patent date of 1869, likely installed by Thomas Baber. Between 1869 and 1873, Baber was taxed on the land and a dwelling valued at $600.

“Newman vs Baber,” a chancery case heard during 1872-73, reveals that Thomas Baber defaulted on payments for the property, which was confiscated by the Commissioner and sold to Thomas B. Norvell. The adjacent land to the west and north of the tract was already owned by Norvell. At the time, Norvell operated a store and held a liquor license. Jeremy Winfrey believes it was likely J. J. Newton’s old store.

From 1874 until his death in 1897, these 60 acres owned by Thomas Norvell, plus the dwelling, were taxed at about $500.  According to Winfrey, the Norvell family called the farm Spreading Oak.

Currently, it is unclear who was responsible for expanding the house with the wood frame addition, though, it was probably completed before 1890. Winfrey wrote, “This corresponds with Thomas Norvell’s improvements, taxed in 1887, which increased the value by a couple hundred dollars.”

Thomas B. Norvell, who had twelve children (nine survived to adulthood), certainly needed the extra space. Ultimately, the house was over 2,000 square feet, not including the basement area. Did Thomas Norvell hire carpenter Thomas Baber to do the work?

Norvell House floor plan. Courtesy Joe Pruden.


Visit this post to learn more details about the Thomas B. Norvell family pictured here:

Buckingham Mystery: The Norvell House, Part II

For much more about the house at Snowden, consult my article, “The Dwelling House At Snowden:

A Virginia Historical Inventory Case Study,” Central Virginia Heritage, Summer 2020.

Coming Next: Buckingham County’s Norvell House Revisited, Part V

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